The Reds seemed poised to pass the Cardinals for second-place in the NL Central Friday night. That was until a Jonathan Lucroy walk-off homerun off of Aroldis Chapman snapped the Reds 5-game winning streak. Now, following a second consecutive loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, it seems like forever ago that the Reds were on their mini-streak.
It’s been that kind of season for the Reds. A little over a week ago the team was 7 games out of first place and the NL Central was called a two-team race. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Reds rolled off five straight to bring them within 2.5 games of the division lead. The streak has brought the Reds back into the NL Central champion discussions, however, the team has transitioned from a team with a target on their backs at the beginning of the season to an underdog with a quarter of the season left.
A major issue for the Reds has been the injuries. If Reds fans knew going into the season that ace Johnny Cueto would have just nine starts on the season with two weeks remaining until September, I don’t think many fans would expect the Reds to be just 3.5 games out of first place. Furthermore, with the Opening Day loss of Ryan Ludwick coupled with the injuries to key bullpen pieces, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton, 3.5 games behind the Pirates doesn’t sound bad at all.
But the question remains, do the Reds have what it takes to make the push for consecutive NL Central titles?
The Reds remaining schedule is a favorable one. The easiest way to jump the Pirates and Cardinals will be in head to head match-ups, which the Reds have 13 games still remaining against the two teams ahead of them in the division. The Reds have 7 games against the Cardinals and 6 against the division-leading Pirates. Those games should provide plenty of opportunities to pass both squads.
Furthermore, the Reds still have 10 more games combined against the two worst teams in the division, the Cubs and Brewers. Overall, the Reds remaining schedule is a relatively weak one with opposing teams combining for a 538-561 record, which equates to a .490 winning percentage.
When you compare that schedule to the two teams the Reds are looking up at in the standings, the Reds seem to be sitting pretty. The Pirates remaining opponents have combined for a 435-422 record, which is a .507 winning percentage. Similarly, the Cardinals remaining schedule features teams with a combined 497-484 record, which is also a .507 winning percentage.
The schedule coupled with the recent return of both Ludwick and Broxton should give the Reds an advantage and boost for their push to once again be crowned NL Central champions.